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 Post subject: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:08 am 
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Here's a thoughtful look at the problems with Modern Capitalism as viewed through Karl Marx's critiques of Industrialism. Instead of knee-jerk salivations, give it a read.

Link from The Harvard Business Review

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Hence, indulge me for a paragraph or two. Now, please note: This is a hugely divisive topic, and by "was Marx right?" I don't mean "Communism is the glorious future of humankind, my brothers in arms!! (And I am your leader — bow!!)". For, of course, I think we've had plenty of compelling demonstrations that it wasn't. Rather, I mean: "Was there maybe a tiny mote of insight or two hidden in Marx's diagnoses of the maladies of industrial age capitalism?"


Very few people propose replacing Capitalism with Communism, but the market system we have today is broken.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:23 pm 
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Aha! Something posted that I've never said out loud, online anyhoo. In many instances, capitalism has failed us miserably. I envy countries with smaller populations and close ethnic ties, that make them want to care for each other. In this month's Smithsonian, there is a very good article about the Finnish school system. They came in number one in the world in education, and they have only one standardized test, just prior to high school, or vo-tech school graduation. The rest of the energy and money is spent on teachers being allowed to find innovative ways to get kids to learn, and this small country has as many immigrants as most do. Teachers have been elevated to a place in society right along doctors and lawyers, and even in low income districts, they receive top notch education, primarily because the mantra is "do whatever works", not, punish the teachers, make others hate teaching, add more tests to compare to the gifted and talented, inact the stupidest form of torture known to teachers, "No Child Left Behind", or, Nickelby. Of course, we have a more diverse nation, and we're large, and in the beginning groups stayed together and helped one another. We'd much rather fight with each other than make something work for most, like healthcare. One newspaper writer stated last year that "Now is the time to get insurance!" So I looked up all the insurance carriers in the state, and if not covered partly by employment, the cheapest deductible was $7500.00. Putrid. Absolutely putrid. Oh, and on the educational scale, we are # 23.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:30 pm 
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God damn Lenin and Mao for coopting Marxism and making it into those monstrosities of the 20th century. Because of the Cold War, no one (well, at least no one in America) actually knows what Marx even did, said, or wrote. His dream of a communist utopia is there and can be thoroughly criticized; but Marx himself did that starting in about 1852 when he wrote a piece critiquing the 1848 Brumaire in Paris. Marx spent the second half of his career doing a thorough sociological analysis of the social relations of capital. And yes, he was right about 90% of it. The 10% he got wrong can be boiled to the fact that a) he underestimated capitalism's resilience and innovative potential to maintain itself over time; b) he overestimated the human capacity to see their own exploitation; and c) he thought it would implode about 75 years sooner than it has. Social scientists working in the area of political-economy are basically saying that Marx didn't understand just how big capitalism could get and just how thoroughly it could create a multitiered planet based on the production needs of a global capitalist system. He predicted it would happen, but was off in his scale.

162 years have passed since he and Engels wrote the Manifesto, and a lot has happened and changed. What is shocking about Marx isn't that Lenin's and Mao's versions of communism failed (given Marx's own theory of communism, he probably would have said they were doomed from the beginning). No, what is shocking about Marx is just how *right* he has proven to be in his analysis of capitalist social relations and structures.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:47 pm 
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cumom wrote:
God damn Lenin and Mao for coopting Marxism and making it into those monstrosities of the 20th century. Because of the Cold War, no one (well, at least no one in America) actually knows what Marx even did, said, or wrote. His dream of a communist utopia is there and can be thoroughly criticized; but Marx himself did that starting in about 1852 when he wrote a piece critiquing the 1848 Brumaire in Paris. Marx spent the second half of his career doing a thorough sociological analysis of the social relations of capital. And yes, he was right about 90% of it. The 10% he got wrong can be boiled to the fact that a) he underestimated capitalism's resilience and innovative potential to maintain itself over time; b) he overestimated the human capacity to see their own exploitation; and c) he thought it would implode about 75 years sooner than it has. Social scientists working in the area of political-economy are basically saying that Marx didn't understand just how big capitalism could get and just how thoroughly it could create a multitiered planet based on the production needs of a global capitalist system. He predicted it would happen, but was off in his scale.

162 years have passed since he and Engels wrote the Manifesto, and a lot has happened and changed. What is shocking about Marx isn't that Lenin's and Mao's versions of communism failed (given Marx's own theory of communism, he probably would have said they were doomed from the beginning). No, what is shocking about Marx is just how *right* he has proven to be in his analysis of capitalist social relations and structures.



I admit that my knowledge of Marx and his criticisms is weak. I'm just now learning the barebones of his actual philosophy and argument rather than learning what other people believe he was proposing. I will start by reading some of his works.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:39 pm 
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CV Rick wrote:
I admit that my knowledge of Marx and his criticisms is weak. I'm just now learning the barebones of his actual philosophy and argument rather than learning what other people believe he was proposing. I will start by reading some of his works.

While admirable, reading Marx may not be a great idea. Most of it is unreadable. Under no circumstances try to read "Das Kapital"! The readable portions of Marx are co-authored by Engels, so that a good starting point would be to start with those works. In fact, the best introduction to Marxism is not by Marx, it is Engels' work "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1892, from a larger work in 1878)".

Marx also has to be read in the context of his times. In the nineteenth century, socialism meant mainly utopian socialism of Saint Simon and Fourier or the New Harmony Owenite community in the United States. Marx and Engels added the theory of class struggle and differentiated their brand of socialism from the Utopians. The competing critique of capitalism was anarchism, so anti-capitalists had a varied menu to choose from.

The centrist socialist parties that have prevailed in most of Europe since WWII are the offspring of both Marx and Engels (without the Leninist and Maoist accretions) and the utopians. In the United States, a socialist party was significant and reached a high point in 1912, but after WWII liberals increasingly distanced themselves from Marxism of any flavor (except for the Genovese's) and the utopian socialist ideals morphed into the New Deal and the Fair Deal. One has to wonder about the wisdom of ignoring the class struggle in the United States (except for some occasional labor union rhetoric) and instead of negotiating the terms of coexistence with capitalism, buying into the idea that we (or at least those of us who are white Protestant third- or more generation Americans) are all capitalists now.

Jamie

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:41 am 
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We have a huge class struggle on our hands. We always have, but now we are in the middle of removing entirely the middle class. What capitalism will look like when that's gone I can only wonder. When the main motivation behind capitalism is "I've got mine, screw you", it just ain't gonna work forever.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:59 am 
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Marx has won. We are all socialists now.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:56 pm 
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figaro wrote:
Marx has won. We are all socialists now.


Another substantive contribution from figaro.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:47 pm 
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figaro wrote:
Marx has won. We are all socialists now.

What on Earth is that supposed to mean?

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:13 pm 
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notpotable wrote:
figaro wrote:
Marx has won. We are all socialists now.

What on Earth is that supposed to mean?



:rolleyes:

It doesn't really mean anything, NP. It's just another drive-by.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:02 am 
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oldfart wrote:
CV Rick wrote:
I admit that my knowledge of Marx and his criticisms is weak. I'm just now learning the barebones of his actual philosophy and argument rather than learning what other people believe he was proposing. I will start by reading some of his works.

While admirable, reading Marx may not be a great idea. Most of it is unreadable. Under no circumstances try to read "Das Kapital"! The readable portions of Marx are co-authored by Engels, so that a good starting point would be to start with those works. In fact, the best introduction to Marxism is not by Marx, it is Engels' work "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1892, from a larger work in 1878)".

Marx also has to be read in the context of his times. In the nineteenth century, socialism meant mainly utopian socialism of Saint Simon and Fourier or the New Harmony Owenite community in the United States. Marx and Engels added the theory of class struggle and differentiated their brand of socialism from the Utopians. The competing critique of capitalism was anarchism, so anti-capitalists had a varied menu to choose from.

The centrist socialist parties that have prevailed in most of Europe since WWII are the offspring of both Marx and Engels (without the Leninist and Maoist accretions) and the utopians. In the United States, a socialist party was significant and reached a high point in 1912, but after WWII liberals increasingly distanced themselves from Marxism of any flavor (except for the Genovese's) and the utopian socialist ideals morphed into the New Deal and the Fair Deal. One has to wonder about the wisdom of ignoring the class struggle in the United States (except for some occasional labor union rhetoric) and instead of negotiating the terms of coexistence with capitalism, buying into the idea that we (or at least those of us who are white Protestant third- or more generation Americans) are all capitalists now.

Jamie

With due respect for the gentleman from Mississippi, I have to disagree on several points above.

1. The idea that Marx is unreadable is bizarre. He's one of the most clearly written 19th century social theorists that ever there was. From his early efforts in the German Ideology to his magnum opus. Speaking of which, Das Kapital is a brilliant sociological work, especially the first volume. It is, however, for specialists who already know the language and jargon and can walk through a LOT of data and follow through larger points about the social relations of production and the abstractions necessary to make a capitalist society work. Early Marx is an adaptation of Hegel's philosophy of history; and late Marx is highly quantitative. That said, the essay "Wage Labor and Capital" and "The Manifesto" and "The Brummaire of Louis Bonaparte" are all perfectly readable.

2. Engels' influence, in my opinion, was detrimental to Marxist thought on at least one key level, namely that Engels was not as complex a thinker as Marx and so perpetuated a couple of problematic ideas, to wit, a crass material determinism that Marx had rejected before he ever moved to England. While "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" is clearly in the Marxist tradition, it is not a good introduction to Marx himself for precisely that reason. The historical teleology of early communist theory (which Marx rejected as early as 1852) was in fact an good way to organize politically as a hopeful ideology for working class folks to hang on to as they fought for their lives within the wage labor system. But it isn't sociologically or historically accurate, which is why Marx dropped it in 1852 never to return to it. Likewise, the utopianism of the early Communist theories came to look clearly flawed by Marx by the mid-1850s and although he held out hope for an eventual communism (by which Marx meant something quite different from Lenin and Mao, i.e., the communal ownership of the means of production), he dropped the historical determinism argument. Engels did not. The *reason* Marx dropped this aspect of his theory was because of the failure of the 1848 uprisings (e.g., in Paris) and the evident power of the Bourgeois state not just to control by force, but to control consciousness itself.

3. Finally, less a disagreement with Old Fart than a further explanation: In Europe, the social democracy movements which created the modern welfare states (France, England, Germany, Scandinavia, etc.) were based in Marx's critique of capitalist relations of production, but rejecting the notion of communism. America had a very different relationship to socialist theory/communism because of the history of our 2nd industrial revolution (Marx was already dead by this time). The capitalist class in the U.S. had a massive pool of immigrant labor to fill their factories, and when they tried to organize, it became easy to blame unions on "foreign" or "unAmerican" influences (although about 1/2 the labor movement were native born Americans). Socialism got marked in America as "foreign" and "anti-freedom", because by the 1870s, the capitalist class had already succeeded in overthrowing Jeffersonian notions of freedom and replacing them with private property (i.e., private ownership of the means of production with the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands) and consumerism (which had been framed as a process of pesonal regeneration through purchasing mass-produced objects). Mutualism and reciprocity, which are the fundamental values of agrarian society, both in the U.S. and among the immigrants, had to be stamped out in favor of market (wage labor) individualism, and the main way to do that was to combine wage labor with the idea of "freedom." But as Jamie points out, this was a process that took WWII to stamp out, and it is my reading of the historical evidence that the WWII generation, tired as hell of the depression and war, and scared to death by the Cold War, longing for peace and stability became a nation that readily submitted to authority and valued the status of the white collar jobs (which came to dominate the labor market in the 1950s thanks to the GI bill) and atomized suburban housing over the kinds of communal organizations, mutualism, and reciprocity that had been their parents' guiding values in the 1930s. And with that, the hope for social democracy in the U.S. was all but dead (with the notable exception of the key surviving efforts of FDR, e.g., Social Security).

And Frank, if that's what you got from your degree in Political Science at BYU, you need to demand your money back and go get another degree. Seriously. You cannot have a degree in political science and think in any way that the U.S. is *increasingly* socialist, inasmuch as your party of choice has been gradually dismantling what little social democracy the U.S. had since the election of RR.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:34 am 
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Oh come on. Rick Perry dares to say a bad word about Social Security and the rest of the Republicans are falling over themselves to denounce him for it. How dare we assail that sacred social program??? A Republican President adds a drug benefit to Medicare. Progressive taxation is also a permanent inviolable principle in our public discourse. Nobody blinks an eye at the government takeovers of major industries, such as manufacturing or banking. If by socialism you mean a welfare state, and government attempting to direct the economy, then yes, we are all socialists now.

But I will say that the near future may be very different. Socialism only works until you run out of other people's money, as Margaret Thatcher noted, and we are running out.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:29 am 
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Fig, I don't think "socialism" is summed up by a handful of programs to help poor citizens. Nor by regulation of industry.

It's a total philosophy about class and labor and organization that, as Cumom outlined above, are not part of our nation's structure. That's like saying "we're all feminist now" (with a sneer, no less), without equal wage laws, without better penalties for domestic abuse and rape, without adequate maternity leave, and where barriers to abortion keep increasing, just because we have WIC and women can vote.

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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:42 am 
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figaro wrote:
If by socialism you mean a welfare state, and government attempting to direct the economy, then yes, we are all socialists now.



Does anyone else here believe the US is a welfare state?

Quote:
But I will say that the near future may be very different. Socialism only works until you run out of other people's money, as Margaret Thatcher noted, and we are running out.


Replace "socialism" with "capitalism," and the same thing holds true. Wallstreet fell when other people's money ran out, and other people's money was used to prop it back up. From what I've read, I fear that the impending failure of European banks has the potential to hit us with a second wave of economic depression.

By the way, thanks, OldFart, CV and Cumom for your substantive contributions to this discussion.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Marx Right?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:48 am 
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figaro wrote:
Oh come on. Rick Perry dares to say a bad word about Social Security and the rest of the Republicans are falling over themselves to denounce him for it. How dare we assail that sacred social program??? A Republican President adds a drug benefit to Medicare. Progressive taxation is also a permanent inviolable principle in our public discourse. Nobody blinks an eye at the government takeovers of major industries, such as manufacturing or banking. If by socialism you mean a welfare state, and government attempting to direct the economy, then yes, we are all socialists now.

But I will say that the near future may be very different. Socialism only works until you run out of other people's money, as Margaret Thatcher noted, and we are running out.



/facepalm

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